Tyrone player mocked Marsden after wrongful dismissal in 2003 final
I've seen a lot on football fields and I have to say that nothing ever annoyed or frustrated me more than what happened to Diarmaid Marsden in the 2003 All-Ireland final. I'll say it straight -- his dismissal against Tyrone cost Armagh the title.
I haven't a doubt that if Diarmaid had been there over that crucial finishing stretch, Armagh would have won the two-in-a-row. Now, if he had done something that warranted a dismissal we could live with it.
Do the crime, do the time and all that.
In this case, there was no crime but plenty of time. Well, certainly enough to sway what had been a tight, tense game where inches were always going to be crucial. Instead of having Diarmaid's intelligent presence on the run-in, we were down to 14 men after he had been sent off by referee Brian White.
Tyrone's Philip Jordan ran at Diarmaid, who instinctively put up his arm in self-defence. Jordan went down as if he'd been hit by a crowbar, the Tyrone crowd starting baying and suddenly Diarmaid was in the referee's firing line.
If White saw the incident clearly, I have no idea how he could have sent Diarmaid off on a straight red card, which implied he had been guilty of striking. Was the ref serious? A guy is running straight at you and you're supposed to stand there with your hands down by your sides and take what's coming?
I was disgusted by the actions of at least one Tyrone player who mockingly clapped Diarmaid off the pitch. There's an honour among players -- or at least there should be -- and to see a man gloating at an opponent's bad luck in an All-Ireland final is something I could never understand. It's not the GAA where I was brought up or one I ever want to be part of.
Diarmaid's dismissal meant he would miss the first game of the 2004 championship and placed a black mark against his name which had to be challenged.
We were furious that he had been wronged. Diarmaid was conscious that, among other things, his little girl, Lara, who was too young to understand at the time, might ask him in years to come why was he sent off in an All-Ireland final. He could explain as much as he wanted that it was an injustice, but the record books would show otherwise unless he had his name cleared.
You would have thought that the Games Administration Committee might have decided in favour of Diarmaid on the basis of video evidence. But, no, he was suspended and we had no option but to set about having it overturned. The final port of call in that frustrating process was Central Council and, to their credit, they acknowledged that an injustice had been done. The suspension was struck out and while it was of no value to us or Diarmaid in footballing terms, it at least cleared a good man's name.